(Or: “Look Mom and Dad, I’m Not a TOTAL Lazy Bum!”)
It’s been a little over a year since I last received a paycheck.
I’ve already written a bit about what the first three months of early retirement “feels like.”
And I also wrote about what I considered my purpose in life without a job to give me direction.
But, now that I have a full year of early retirement under my belt, I figured this would be a good opportunity to answer that all-important question any 32 year-old who announces they’re “early retired” gets:
“What do you do all day?”
What I Do All Day in Early Retirement
The truth (and the joy) of it is: there is no simple answer to this question.
This is mainly due to the nature of early retirement: I don’t have to go into the office to do the same thing every day, so, I don’t.
My days differ wildly from things I’m working on, events I’m going to, and people I’m spending time with, making it difficult to succinctly sum up my weekly activities.
I finally realized I was struggling so much to answer this simple question that I really needed to take time to write out a list of all the things I’ve done over the preceding months, if just to convince myself I haven’t been sitting around in my underwear all day for a year straight.
Luckily for all of us, it turns out I haven’t been.
One Year of Early Retirement, By the Numbers
So, without further ado, here’s just about everything I’ve done this year, broken down into categories for hobbies, passion projects, travel, health, social, and leisure.
I hope it gives you an idea of the variety of things one can get up to in early retirement even if your variety won’t necessarily be the same as my variety.
One of the joys of early retirement is that the things you do for fun don’t have to take second place to the things you do for money, so I’ve put this section at the top of the list.
- I designed (and finished a rough draft of) a set of wargame rules and built a website to share them with playtesters so I can improve and eventually publish them.
- I designed, from the ground up, an entire fictional world for my wargames to take place, complete with a world map (courtesy of the fantastic Azgaar Fantasy Map Generator), 20 invented nations with basic written histories and major characters for each, and a rough timeline of the world’s history/wars/religions.
- I wrote a basic set of rules for playing “bathtubbed” wargame campaigns.
- I also wrote a (very rough) draft of some simple rules for playing a wargame campaign on a hex map.
- I designed and built a wargames table complete with stylized trees, rivers, roads, and buildings and played two battles on it.
- I wrote and published two (long) posts detailing each of these battles on my old wargame blog.
- I managed to play eight total wargames, including one on the beach during my honeymoon.
These are the types of projects I do, not for “fun” necessarily, but because they challenge me and give me a sense of purpose in early retirement.
- I built this personal blog and wrote and promoted three longish articles for it (this one included).
- I did in-depth SEO research for all my projects, recording 1,406 targeted keywords and thinking up 164 potential blog/content topics to write about.
- I relaunched my long dormant libertarian art website which took up a TON of time and involved:
- Transferring the site to new domain
- Cleaning up 36 old posts and scores of broken links
- Adding/writing several new pages
- Adding a new WordPress theme and designing a signup incentive and writing six emails for the auto email sequence
- Updating lists of libertarian fiction and music with 200+ new additions and working links
- Writing three new blog posts (including the last two chapters of a long forgotten libertarian novella of mine) and updating/substantially re-writing two other posts
- Adding SEO metadata to all posts and pages
- Signing up for three new affiliate programs
- Promoting new posts and pages across six different social platforms and 56+ individual groups/forums
- Reaching out to networks of other authors to get 16 writers signed up to contribute guest blogs, and to get 10 free book submissions from other authors
- Writing and scheduling 9 author promotion emails
- Collecting 144 (and counting) email subscribers
- Designing and printing signs, pamphlets, and price sheets, and manning a table at a libertarian event to sell books/sign up email subscribers.
- I also did a little SEO/content marketing consulting for two different small blogs, getting on calls and helping with keyword/competitor research, detailed content plans, and article topic ideas.
- And I finally took the first steps on another of my “life purpose projects” and built the LongevityAdvice website and set up its Twitter account.
We did a lot of travel this year, all of it in the U.S., but a big portion of it pretty far from home. It was also (relatively) cheap because being able to fly on a random Tuesday instead of a busy Sunday really helps bring prices down.
We traveled to/attended:
- A local DC wedding
- A local VA toy soldier show
- A skiing and wine trip in VA with some old work colleagues
- A beach wedding on an island in South Carolina
- A birthday party in Kentucky on a luxury farm featured in Architectural Digest Magazine
- A family reunion in Pennsylvania
- Two weeks in Colorado for both a funeral service and a beautiful mountain wedding
- One week in NYC to visit with friends and see the opening week of the Moulin Rouge musical
- A camping trip in the Catoctin Mountains replete with a day trip to Gettysburg for a battlefield tour and a stop by the famous toy soldier shop (sensing a pattern here?)
- Another trip to Colorado for a surprise birthday celebration
- A “staycation” weekend with old college buddies with river tubing and movies and dinners
- A local VA wedding for a former coworker
- A trip to Fredericksburg to see old family friends
- A week in New Orleans to see family and attend the National WW2 Museum’s annual conference on WW2
- A week in Colorado for Thanksgiving
AND we’ll be going to LA for Christmas in a few short weeks as well.
One thing that has benefited from just having more time to focus on it has been my general health.
- I’ve worked out lifting weights consistently 2-3 times/week for most of the year and added ~10lbs of muscle (well, it was 20, but then I lost 10 because I was traveling for a month straight, then I tweaked my back and got a cold and stopped working out and eating enough for another month).
- I did 30min-1hr walks almost every other day I wasn’t in the gym.
- I perfected 10 new keto/paleo recipes (and tested a whole lot more of them) including: olive oil ice cream, almond butter chicken stir fry, sausage and veggie oven bake, sous vide salmon, soft boiled eggs, almond flour cinnamon rolls, slow cooker pot roast, slow cooker pork roast, fathead/almond flour dough “SMOG” (steak, mushroom, onion, gruyere) pie, and slow cooker beef stew.
Being able to say “yes” to meetups with friends has been another great benefit of early retirement, though I’m still not nearly as good at this as I hope to be.
- We hosted five different friends at our house for a combined 18 days.
- I went on lots of lunches and dinners and meetups with friends, former work colleagues, and visiting family.
- I attended my 10 year college reunion and got to spend lots of time with old friends from out-of-town.
- I wrote 11 recommendations/references for former work colleagues.
- We played paintball in VA for a cousin-in-law’s birthday.
- I went to Mount Vernon with some out-of-town friends for Independence Day and got to watch lots of musket-firing.
- I wrote and sent 36 Wedding Thank You notes (sorry they took so long, family).
Shockingly, despite all the projects and travel and friend meetups, I’ve still found some quiet time to just consume entertainment.
- I read a total of 34 books and six graphic novels, with favorites probably being The Quantum Thief, The Bielski Brothers, Charge!: Or, How to Play War Games, and the Conan Omnibus.
- I watched a bunch of movies and TV shows, with highlights including The Man Who Would Be King, Dark Season 2, Stranger Things Season 3, The Highwaymen, The Righteous Gemstones, The Expanse Season 3, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, The Thick of It, and the 1970 Waterloo movie.
- I also played 18 different computer games (including the free version of Command and Conquer: Red Alert from OpenRA, plus my old Minecraft world), for a combined 129 hours.
Total words written: 31,650 (counting this post)
All this and I still had time to wake up at 10am most days, spend a leisurely hour drinking tea in bed with the wife reading the WSJ, and spend whole days just playing video games, or reading, or mucking about online, or taking long walks around the neighborhood and daydreaming or planning future projects.
So, How Do I Feel About My First Year of Early Retirement?
I still struggle with a routine, but I am getting better with this (most of my most productive days have been in the second half of the year).
My sleep schedule is still off but, again, this is getting better (going to bed at 1-2am instead of 2-3am now).
I still struggle with ensuring human contact on those days I’m working head-down on a project, and I need to be more proactive about scheduling work dates with friends I know work remote as well.
But otherwise, pretty good.
I love waking up with the whole day to myself.
I love being able to plan travel without having to worry about using up vacation days.
I love being able to work on things I want to work on, when I want to work on them.
I love being able to pursue a creative urge when it hits, instead of shelving it for “later.”
And so, despite some of the difficulties of my new life, when I’m asked if I ever want to go back to a full-time job, my answer always has been, and continues to be, a very quick, “No.”
And that says it all, really.
J.P. Medved is a former content marketing director and current novelist, wargamer, and bacon-recipe-tinkerer.